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Comparing Online Flower Deliveries

Flower Quality.

If you've ever shopped around for flowers, you know that prices change often and vary wildly even for the same types of flowers and the same number of stems. A dozen roses at the corner store or supermarket might fetch $15 while a dozen roses at a flower shop -- unique, dyed blooms, say, or the highest quality picks -- may run well above $100.
Is the extra cost worth it? Possibly. Higher quality flowers generally last longer, open bigger, and give off stronger scents. Florists (as opposed to the local grocery store) command a premium because they can assure the flowers' quality: They know how to handle flowers and maintain a well-established supply chain that keeps the blooms in tip-top shape up to the moment they're sold.

Higher prices don't necessarily translate to higher quality, however. A post at Pissed Consumer relates one man's experience sending flowers to his wife to congratulate her on a new job. Having used slightly cheaper online flower delivery services to send her flowers on a number of occasions, he decided to spring for a ProFlowers bouquet, believing the flower quality would be higher. When the order arrived, however, the bouquet was small, the flowers had been crushed, and the arrangement looked nothing like the advertised bouquet after assembly. Customer reviews indicate that none of the leading services has earned purchasers' unqualified trust for flower quality. An FTD customer reports on Reseller Ratings that a $100 order looked downright chintzy and completely different from the online picture. Online flower deliveries are often made by FedEx or UPS, and depending on weather and handling, flowers may arrive damaged or wilted. A consumer who ordered from 1-800-Flowers complains on Epinions about a dead flower in a bouquet. Purchasers often seem to understand that the fault for poor flower quality may lie with the local florist. But as one reviewer points out, a direct call gives you a chance to assess how a shop treats customers before deciding whether to do business there.

Smart Money compared Mother's Day bouquets from online flower delivery sites including FTD, ProFlowers, and 1-800-Flowers, and no provider came up smelling like roses. Arrangements looked sparse and flowers dehydrated, and many buds remained unopened. A local CBS affiliate in San Francisco likewise ordered bouquets from all four sites we researched, including Teleflora. The 1-800-Flowers and Teleflora arrangements arrived with several substitutions and the former was missing a picture frame that was supposed to be included. The FTD and ProFlowers bouquets were smaller than other arrangements that cost the same. The report's conclusion: With online flower delivery, there's no way to confirm the flower quality or selection, so the best bet is to buy directly from a local florist.

Several flower vendors who fulfill orders for online sites asserted in interviews that you can get better flower quality for your money if you buy direct from them. One seller explained to us that he sacrifices a hunk of his profit to the site and may consequently cut a corner here and there to buoy his margin. A different shopkeeper said orders coming through the online system include a price and a "recipe" that he's contractually obligated to follow. But with a DIY order, he keeps all the profit and may throw in something extra to spruce up the arrangement.

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